Hamas Debacle Hurts Arafat

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JERUSALEM: Benjamin Netanyahu looks set to ride out the crisis sparked by Mossad's botched assassination attempt on a Hamas leader in Jordan. Hamas itself is buoyant. The real loser from the incident appears to be Yasser Arafat. As the hapless Mossad hit men returned home Monday, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin — released as part of the same deal — was welcomed in Gaza by tens of thousands of Palestinians. Arafat now has either to seek coexistence with Hamas — and earn the ire of Israel and the U.S.— or to confront an adversary growing in power and influence. “Arafat’s room for maneuver is greatly limited,” says TIME West Bank correspondent Jamil Hamad. “Sheikh Yassin will be asking Arafat, ‘What’s the point of hugging and kissing me while keeping my supporters behind bars?’ ”

Arafat’s dilemma is compounded by growing dissatisfaction within his own Fatah movement — two of the recent Jerusalem suicide bombers were former Fatah members who had joined Hamas. So while Netanyahu can survive the debacle by firing the head of Mossad, the Palestinian leader faces a struggle to stop his support hemorrhaging.